SoCon Football Vault: A look back to 1994

The year of 1994 featured some great sports stories in the United States, and it all started with hosting the World Cup Tournament on home soil.

Chattanooga Hall-of-Fame quarterback Kenyon Earl (1991-94)
Source: Photo courtesy of Chattanooga Athletics

Over the next few weeks as we get prepped for the 2024 football season in FCS football, Redshirt Sports takes a back at the 1994, 2004 and 2014 seasons, respectively, as we look back at what has changed and what has stayed the same within the league’s overall power structure and how its membership has remained strong with a good core of teams that have represented the league well over three decades and far beyond.

In current times when conference re-alignment is a recurring theme and conversation point of emphasis at all levels of college athletics, it’s interesting to see that the Southern Conference has been able to keep its members happy for the most part, losing teams that are moving up rather than ones making a lateral move.

Summary of the 1994 SoCon Football Season

The year of 1994 featured some great sports stories in the United States, and it all started with hosting the World Cup Tournament on home soil in the summer months.

It would be a big year for Tom Obsourne’s dominant Nebraska Cornhuskers, who knocked off the Miami Hurricanes, 24-17, in the Orange Bowl to finish 12-0 and claim the FBS (formerly Division I-A) national title.

In Southern Conference football, there was a new defending champion, with Georgia Southern (6-5, 5-3 SoCon) having captured the crown in its first season as a league member. But the ‘94 season ultimately would see a pair of two of the three teams in the SoCon continue their climb, while a pair of Palmetto State programs within the league’s power structure would continue a sharp decline.

The '94 season also marked the continued rise of Marshall (12-2, 7-1 SoCon) football had become one of the more remarkable stories in the history of college football, and it took nearly an entire two decades to overcome the worst tragedy in the history of American sport. By the time 1994 arrived, however, the Thundering Herd had now established themselves as a national power on the Division I-AA football scene (now FCS).

Under the direction of head coach Jim Donnan, the Thundering Herd would all but overwhelm their competition in the Southern Conference during the 1994 campaign, and the Thundering Herd would see an their season end at the penultimate stage of the ultimate goal, which was win the school’s second national title.

That wouldn’t come for a couple of more years in what would be the Thundering Herd’s final season as an NCAA Division I-AA program. While Marshall had a national title to celebrate, however, had only ever liftted the SoCon title trophy one time in their history, and that would be a shared title with Furman in 1988, which would be a year that would see the Paladins go on to win their only national title in program history.

It was clear with the lofty expectations for the Thundering Herd entering the 1994 season, however, that Jim Donnan had helped elevate a program that started its climb towards the Division I-AA elite a decade earlier under the direction of Stan Parrish in 1984.

That 6-5 season was seen as the start of what would be a Thundering Herd program that would find itself a regular in not only the Division I-AA playoffs, but also knocking at the door of a national title before finally winning one in 1992. Just three seasons later, the Thundering Herd made it all the way to the national title game before losing a heartbreaking, 43-42, contest to Northeast Louisiana (now UL Monroe).

In 1988, the Thundering Herd took another step by sharing the SoCon title with Furman, and while a regular-season win over the Paladins had been satisfying to be sure, a loss in the quarterfinal round of the Division I-AA playoffs to those same Paladins was a bitter pill to swallow for many.

With Huntington, WVa., now the official host of the national title game, there was now more incentive than ever to make the national title game.

From 1992-96, Joan C. Edwards Stadium (formerly James F. Edwards/Marshall Stadium) was the official host of the national title game, with Marshall making the national title game in four out of those five seasons.

Ironically,the Thundering Herd, which were so tough to beat on their home turf under both Donnan and Bob Pruett during that span, were just 2-3 in championship games during that span, losing twice to Youngstown State (1991 and ‘93), as well as Montana (‘95).

Only two of those three losses came in Huntington, with the ‘91 setback coming in Statesboro, GA , at Paulson Stadium, as the Thundering Herd dropped a 25-17 contest to the Penguins.

Following wins over Middle Tennessee State (W, 49-14) and James Madison (W, 28-21/OT), Marshall’s season would ultimately come to an end on the bue turf of Boise State, as the Broncos scored what was a thrilling 28-24 win over the Thundering Herd, which was just one game short of a trip back to the national title game for Marshall.

While the season ended just shy of the promised land, there were plenty of triumphant moments to look back on that helped put in perspective just how dominant the Herd had been. The offense for Marshall during the 1994 season, and similar to the 1992 unit, were putting up ridiculous scoring numbers for that era, averaging over 40 PPG nearly the entire season.

The Herd got it done in 1994 both on the ground and through the air. With Jim Donnan’s son, Todd Donnan, leading the attack and Chris Parker leading the charge on the ground and Tim Martin highlighting the big play options at wide receiver, the Herd had a multi-faceted attack, which was as good as any in Division I-AA.

The 1994 offensive unit for the Herd still ranks as the sixth-best scoring offense in program history, averaging 40.0 PPG in 14 games. The 77 TDs andthe 560 points rank fifth-most in program history in both categories.

Parker finished the season with 10 one-hundred yard rushing games, which included a school-record six games with 150 or more yards on the ground.

Led by players like Billy Lyon along the defensive front and BJ Cohen anchoring the defensive front, and defensive backs Shannon Morrison and Roger Johnson shoring up the back end in the defensive backfield, the Thundering Herd led the league and ranked 10th nationally in total defense (278.7 YPG). It was part of a four-season span in which the Thundering Herd ended the season with the league’s top defensive unit, spanning 1993-96.

With Marshall having been so dominant on both sides of the ball in the always-tough Southern Conference during the ‘94 campaign, it led to some dominant results on the scoreboard. The Thundering Herd sported blowout league wins at Georgia Southern (W, 34-10), vs. Chattanooga (W, 62-21), at VMI (49-7), vs. Western Carolina (W, 38-14), vs. The Citadel (42-24), at East Tennessee State (W, 42-12) and vs. Furman (W, 35-14).

Marshall’s non-conference slate featured wins vs. Morehead State (49-14), vs. Tennessee Tech (W, 24-10) and vs. West Virginia State (W, 48-0). The Thundering Herd would rise as high as No. 1 in the nation prior to their only regular-season loss, and would end the ‘94 season ranked No. 3 in Division I-AA.

The only loss during the regular-season for Marshall would come against another SoCon juggernaut, in the Appalachian State (9-4, 6-2 SoCon) Mountaineers, which was the only team to also join the Thundering Herd in the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs.

The Mountaineers had sophomore sensation linebacker Dexter Coakley leading the charge on the defensive side of the football, while junior quarterback Scott Satterfield won the starting job during the season by nearly engineering a miraculous comeback on the road at perennial league power Georgia Southern before dropping a 34-31 contest in Statesboro.

The Black and Gold actually had a golden opportunity to tie for the SoCon regular-season title and it should have been a formality with winless VMI paying a visit to Boone.

However, the Mountianeers ended up being on the wrong end of arguably one of the greatest upsets in league history, as the Keydets claimed their lone win of the season with a 26-23 loss in overtime. The loss would very likely mean that the Mountaineers would be forced to go on the road in the opening round of the playoffs.

The season itself, however, was very much a success for Appalachian State football. After opening the season with a narrow 12-10 loss to Wake Forest, the Apps were dominant in wins over North Carolina A&T (W, 45-0), The Citadel (W, 56-14), at East Tennessee State (W, 30-13) and vs. Furman (W, 30-6) to set the Apps up in good position with the most crucial part of the schedule ahead with games on the road at defending league champion Georgia Southern and vs. top-ranked Marshall.

After the narrow loss at defending champion Georgia Southern, the Mountaineers played their first night home game at The Rock since 1985 and hadn’t lost on the home turf under the lights since 1977.

Appalachian State hadn’t ever hosted a top-ranked foe and the Black and Gold would make the most of the occasion, notching what was and still is one of the biggest regular-season wins in school history, as Appalachian State held on for a 24-14 win in a driving rain.

A crowd of 19,781 fans packed inside Kidd Brewer Stadium, despite the driving rain and fog, to witness a huge home win for the Black and Gold. It would be a night in which the goalposts would come down in celebration of the huge Southern Conference victory.

Keying the win was the play of the Mountaineer defense, which ended the season leading league in turnover margin (+1.23), and used a big night from both All-American linebacker Dexter Coakley and defensive back Johnny Smith helped the Apps pull off the big upset win at home. Coakley and his posted 15 tackles, three tackles-for-loss, a pair of pass breakups and forced a fumble.

Smith, who played three seasons as a fullback on the ASU offense, made the biggest play of the night by picking off a Todd Donnan pass and returned it 70 yards for a score in the fourth quarter, giving the Mountaineers a 24-7 lead.

It was all part of what was a memorable night for Smith, who finished with seven tackles, and a fumble recovery to go along with his INT return for a score.

On offense, it was a successful and efficient night for Scott Satterfield and the App State offense, passing for 113 yards and rushed for 30 yards and a score in leading the Mountaineers to the upset win over the No. 1 ranked team in the nation.

Following the win over Marshall, the Mountaineers went on to win their next three games, which were at Chattanooga (W, 30-16), vs. Liberty (41-40) and at Western Carolina (W, 12-7) before suffering that shocking setback to VMI (L, 23-26).

After posting a hard-fought 17-10 overtime win at Cowell Stadium at the University of New Hampshire in the opening round of the Division I-AA playoffs, it would set up a trip to the Northwest for the Mountaineers to face Boise State on the famous blue turf of the Broncos.

Like Boise’s win over Marshall, the game between the Mountaineers and Broncos would come down to the wire. The Broncos had just one loss all season coming into the playoffs, and that came on the road at Idaho State, dropping a 32-31 contest.

Boise State took a 10-0 lead on a 61-yard touchdown pass from Tony Hilde-to-Ryan Ikebe and a 45-yard field goal by Greg Erickson and that would remain the score until Chip Hooks found the end zone with 2:57 left in the half to cut the Broncos lead to 10-7.

The only points of the third quarter would come via another big play in the passing game from Boise State, as Hilde found his favorite target Ikebe again, with this long strike coming from 64 yards out to make it a 17-7 contest with 1:27 left in the third.

The only points of the fourth quarter would come from Appalachian, as Scott Satterfield scored on a 1-yard scoring plunge with just under nine minutes remaining to cut the deficit to four. However, in what was a defensive struggle the entire afternoon, the Broncos held the Mountaineers to just 226 yards of total offense, including just 73 through the air and were able to hold on for the three-point win.

Both Marshall and Appalachian State--far and away the two best teams in the Southern Conference during the 1994 campaign--lost by a combined seven points to eventual national runner-up Boise State, who went on to lose the ‘94 national title game, 28-14, to Youngstown State in the national title game at Edwards Stadium in Huntington, WVa.

While Marshall and Appalachian State were the class of the league, teams like Georgia Southern (6-5, 5-3 SoCon) and Western Carolina (6-5, 5-3 SoCon) were knocking at the proverbial door the entire season. The Catamounts and Eagles were two of four teams in the league that would end the campaign with identical 6-5 overall records.

The Eagles entered the 1994 season as the defending SoCon champions in what was their first season as a league member. Season two as a member of Division I-AA football’s premier conference of the time wouldn’t go quite as easily as the first did.

The Eagles were once again under the direction of Tim Stowers, and the season would start off with a rather tough assignment, and it involved a road trip to perennial FBS national title contender the University of Miami in the Orange Bowl.

Despite the Eagles tradition and all their success on the Division I-AA gridiron in recent seasons, the game went about as well as one might have expected, with the Hurricanes delivering a swift and decisive beating to the visiting I-AA powerhouse, blanking Georgia Southern, 56-0.

The loss to Miami was an expected result, however, but a 15-14 setback to little Division II program West Georgia was not. That didn’t sit well with the Eagle faithful as one might imagine, and the seat slowly started to heat up for head coach for Tim Stowers, who was in his fifth season as the head coach.

The negative trifecta was completed when No. 1 Marshall showed up in Statesboro for a night game, and with rain and thunderstorms in the area, it would prove to be a negative omen for the defending league champions, while it was a good sign of things to come for the Thundering Herd, who struck with lightning quick efficiency on the offensive side of the ball, downing the Eagles, 34-13, at Paulson Stadium.

Georgia Southern quarterback Joe Dupree couldn’t go, and it was freshman quarterback Kenny Robinson who would draw his first start in a Georgia Southern uniform.

The Thundering Herd, however, dominated from start-to-finish, with the Eagles first points and only touchdown of the night coming in the third quarter when Robinson rumbled over the goal line from a yard out to make it a 17-6 contest following a missed PAT by the Eagles.

However, a Tim Openlander 26-yard field goal with 4:18 left in the third quarter, and a Chris Parker 1-yard scoring plunge helped restore order for the Thundering Herd, as Marshall regained a nice cushion, taking a 27-6 lead.

Georgia Southern would reel off back-to-back wins at Chattanooga (W, 56-20) and vs. VMI (W, 49-0) before heading to Cullowhee to face off against one of the SoCon’s top offensive units, in the Western Carolina Catamounts. It would be a game filled with fireworks, however, it would result in a rare loss for the Eagles, and with that being the fourth loss of the season, it ultimately ended up spelling the end of Georgia Southern’s playoff hopes, and likely, their Southern Conference title hopes.

Western Carolina held off the Eagles with a 35-31 win, with Catamount running back Marcus Roberts scoring on a 1-yard scoring plunge with just 2:25 remaining, giving Western Carolina the four-point lead following Pat Shirley’s PAT, ultimately giving the Catamounts the key Southern Conference win.

The Eagles loss came despite out-gaining the Catamounts, 443-350, including what was a 400-yard rushing afternoon for the Eagle offense, which was paced by Chris Wright, who gained 134 yards and scored two touchdowns on just six carries.

The Eagles returned to the friendly confines to face bitter rival Appalachian State, and by the time all sixty minuites of football had elapsed, it would also proved to be the signature win of the 1994 season, as the Eagles held off the Mountaineers for a 34-31 win.

Georgia Southern jumped out to a 24-7 halftime lead, but had to hold off a furious rally from quarterback Scott Satterfield and the Apps in the second half, but did just enough in the second half to come up with the big win.

The Eagles even held a 31-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but Satterfield came off the bench for the Black and Gold and threw three touchdowns to wideout Don Blue, eventually tying the game, 31-31, following an 18-yard scoring connection between the duo with just over five minutes left.

However, the Eagles would have the last laugh, as Chris Wright’s 42-yard run proved key, getting the ball all the way down to the Appalachian 12, setting up the eventual game-winning, 27-yard field goal to help the Eagles triumph, 34-31.

The Eagles would win their next two games by a combined six points against East Tennessee State (W, 24-23) and at Furman (W, 31-26). In the win over the Bucs, the Eagles got a batted down pass from defensive end Michael Morris on a two-point conversion attempt, allowing the Eagles to preserve their narrow one-point advantage with less than a minute remaining.

In the win at Furman, the Eagles carried a narrow 17-13 lead into the Paladin Stadium locker room thanks to a four-yard scoring run from Chris Wright and a 13-yard run from Chad Holmes early in the second quarter.

The key to the win was big plays in the running game, with Marlow Warthen gaining 124 yards and one touchdown on just seven carries. The Eagles would again get out-gainined, as the Paladins held a 394-366 advantage in total yards, however, Georgia Southern held a commanding 279-155 advantage in rushing yards.

Following a 66-13 win over non-Division I program Glenville State in the final home game of the season, the Eagles headed to early 90’s SoCon power The Citadel and Johnson-Hagood Stadium for the final game of the season.

Close games in both wins and losses had become a defining characteristic of Georgia Southern’s ‘94 team, and unfortunately for Eagles fans on the final day of the regular-season, it would result in a third Southern Conference loss, as the Bulldogs were able to hold on for a 17-15over the Eagles. Reed Haley would set a school record by going 5-of-6 on field goals in the road loss to end the season.

Another team that just missed out on the postseason was Western Carolina. With one of the nation’s most explosive passing attacks, as the Catamounts were led by Tennesssee transfer Chad Greene at quarterback, while WCU had some of the most explosive wideouts in NCAA Division I-AA football, in both Kerry Hayes, David Patten, and Craig Aiken highlighting the talented, big-play unit.

Only Marshall and East Tennessee State ranked higher in passing offense in the SoCon in ‘94, as the Catamounts averaged just over 200 yards-per-game (204.5 YPG) through the air.

The Catamounts, who started the season ranked No. 17 in the Sports Network NCAA Division I-AA poll, and spent a majority of the season ranked in the Top 25.

The Purple and Gold had been knocking at the door of the postseason and a SoCon title each of the previous two seasons, and for a golden generation of talent on both sides of the football, the ‘94 season represented the final opportunity to breakthrough and compete for a league title--something WCU hasn’t achieved since joining the SoCon in 1977--as well as competing for a return to the NCAA Division I-AA postseason for the first time since 1983.

Following impressive consecutive wins at Furman (W, 35-24) and vs. Georgia Southern (W, 35-31), the Catamounts headed to league-leading Marshall with plenty of momentum.

However, the Thundering Herd were too much for the Catamounts to handle on the road, and they would end up handing the Catamounts their first of three Southern Conference losses in Huntington, as the Herd posted the 38-14 win. Wins over Chattanooga (W, 53-15) and at VMI (W, 33-7) set up a Battle Royale in the Battle for the Old Mountain Jug in Cullowhee.

With EJ Whitmire Stadium rocking, this was Western’s chance for a breakthrough back to the Division I-AA postseason they had been looking for.

A win over the Mountaineers and then in the regular-season finale vs East Tennessee State would mean the Catamounts could gain a share of the ‘94 Southern Conference title, as well as an at-large bid to the Division I-AA playoffs.

A defensive struggle would play out, and with everything on the line, the normally prolific Catamount offense fired blanks, but the Catamount defense did what it could to keep it in the contest the entire afternoon. In the end, however, the Mountaineers made a few more plays and ended up with a 12-7 win.

It would be a loss that would be severely demoralizing to the Catamount players and fans, and while the team or coaches wouldn’t admit it, it was something that likely played a major role in what was a heartbreaking 34-31 setback to close the season against the Bucs.

Ultimately, it would be a strong season individually for some of the Catamount players like wideout Craig Aiken and kick return threat Kerry Hayes end up on the all-conference team. But ultimately, as good as the offense and defense were at times during the season, it was a case of in many cases just not being quite good enough for Steve Hodgin’s Catamounts.

The 1994 East Tennessee State (6-5, 4-4 SoCon) Buccaneers were a team that, throughout the league, were respected by the opposition, as head coach Mike Cavan was beginning to build a program, which just two years later, would find itself a part of the Division I-AA playoffs for the first time in its history, as well as knocking on the door of winning the league’s first-ever Southern Conference title.

Like Blue Ridge mountain border rival Western Carolina, the Bucs favored the airways to get things done offensively, and though maybe not as heralded, a young quarterback, in Greg Ryan, along with wideouts like Chris Beatty, Jeff Johnson, Anthony Stringfield and BJ Adigun would help form one of the top units to ever suit up collectively at one time as a part of an offense at ETSU.

It would be a Bucs offense that would finish third in the SoCon behind only Marshall and The Citadel in terms of total output, as the Bucs finished the ‘94 season averaging 405.1 YPG.

The Bucs had a one-man wrecking crew on its defensive line, in defensive end James Russell. Russell, who was a first-team all-SoCon performer, headlined a defense that ranked third in the SoCon at season’s end in total defense (319.8 YPG).

For Cavan, it was his third year leading the ETSU program and plenty of signs of the program being on an uptick were evident. The Bucs, in fact, were on the brink of making some pretty significant noise within the Southern Conference power hierarchy during the 1994 campaign.

The Bucs had suffered a heartbreaker on the road at Georgia Southern late in the season, dropping a 24-23 contest to the defending champion. Prolific signal-caller Greg Ryan would have his pass batted away on a two-point conversion late in the game, that would have likely given Cavan and the Bucs a program-defining road league win, however, it wouldn’t be in the cards and the Eagles held on for a 24-23 win.

The loss would overshadow what was an overall outstanding performance from Ryan, who finished the game completing 28-of-41 passes for 332 yards and a pair of touchdowns, but it ultimately wouldn’t be enough.

ETSU opened the season with a 3-0 record, knocking off Catawba (W, 42-0), Morehead State (W, 44-0) and VMI (W, 31-21) before facing off against both Auburn and App State in succession. The Bucs would lose both to fall to 3-2 against Southern Conference competition.

Another emerging talent on the offensive side of the ball was running back Brian Edwards, who would end up finishing fourth in the Southern Conference in rushing for the season, as he rushed for 1,021 yards and eight touchdowns on 181 rush attempts. Edwards became the first freshman in ETSU history to rush for 1,000 yards in his rookie season.

Despite a 30-13 loss to Appalachian State in ETSU’s second league game, the Bucs saw wideout Jeff Johnson set a program single-game record with 16 catches Later in the season in what was a disappointing 33-21 home loss to Furman, Johnson would become the school’s all-time receptions leader.

Despite seeing the season come apart at the seems after the loss at Georgia Southern, as the Bucs essentially saw all thoughts of any SoCon title hopes or playoff possibilities end with losses to Furman (l, 21-33) and Marshall (L, 42-12), with both setbacks coming in the friendly confines of the Memorial Center.

ETSU would end up playing the role of spoiler for Western Carolina, as the Bucs got one of their most prestigious wins of the ‘94 campaign in the regular-season finale at Western Carolina--a 34-31 verdict over the Catamounts--and it was Brian Edwards that powered the offense, with one of his five 100-yard rushing efforts of the season, finishing with 192 yards in what was a thrilling road win.

With the win, the Bucs posted their first above .500 finish to a campaign in eight years, as the Bucs matched the 6-5 mark last established by the ‘86 Bucs. While the Bucs were looking to establish themselves as a major player on the SoCon gridiron, it was a case of “been there, done that” for The Citadel (6-5, 4-4 SoCon), and for the Bulldogs, there were still plenty of holdovers from the 1992 team, whichhelped put together that historic title run.

The 1993 campaign had seen the Bulldogs finish a disappointing 5-6 overall and 4-4 in league action. Charlie Taafe, who headed into his eighth season as the head coach, was intent on leading the Bulldogs back to the top of the league.

The Bulldogs started the season with a 31-3 win over then NCAA Division II Wofford before playing back-to-back Southern Conference games against Western Carolina and Appalachian State, and the Bulldogs would find themselves behind the eight-ball in the Southern Conference race from the outset of the season, losing to both of the league’s mountain representatives.

The Citadel opened league play with a 42-38 home loss to Western Carolina before traveling to Appalachian State to play one of the preseason league favorites. The boys from the Low Country would find the team in the High Country was for real and the Bulldogs were never really in it, as the Mountaineers dominated both lines of scrimmage en route to a 56-14 humbling of the ‘92 league champions.

It was a bit of a surprise, however, to see the Mountaineers do what it wanted to pretty much all afternoon on the ground, churning out 266 yards via the ground and were ahead 21-0 after just 15 minutes of football.

The Bulldogs, under the direction of signal-caller John Burton, who rushed for 147 of The Citadel’s hard-fought 293 yards on the ground, and the Bulldogs scored all 14 of their points in the game in the second quarter and would find the end zone again for the remainder of the cool, late September afternoon in Boone.

The Mountaineers’ performance against the Bulldogs’ high-octane ground game and offense as a whole was somewhat surprising, considering the Bulldogs would finish the season as the league leaders in rushing offense (382.0 YPG) and second to only Marshall in total offense (436.5 YPG).

The Citadel got its second win of the season to even their record against anothjer non-Division I foe, knocking off NCAA Division II member, Newberry, 48-20, in the Holy City.

While Taafe’s Bulldogs were 2-2 overall and 0-2 in league play, they had yet to win a game against a NCAA Division I foe all season when The Citadel headed to Greenville, S.C., to meet up with bitter rival Furman.

The Bulldogs would pick the perfect occasion and opponent to post their best performance to date of the ‘94 campaign, as it would be a record-breaking Saturday in what would be a 52-44 win over the Paladins.

It was a record-setting afternoon from Bulldogs running back Terrance Rivers, who set a Paladin Stadium record for a visiting foe with 217 rushing yards and four touchdowns to lead the Bulldogs to the wild road win. The Citadel’s win over Furman was its third-straight in the rivalry series against the Paladins,and the Paladins fourth-striaight overall setback marked its longest losing streak in a regular-season since 1979.

Rivers’ performance on the ground would be a part of what was a monster afternoon running the football for the Bulldogs, as The Citadel finished with an impressive 453 yards on the ground, while needing only 19 total yards through the air, as the Bulldogs would edge the Paladins in total yards gained in the contest--472-468.

Following the win over Furman, the Bulldogs had a pair of tough games on the immediate horizon, with both of those being on the road atNCAA Division I-A Army and then the following week on the road at SoCon-leading and No. 5 Marshall.

The Bulldogs would ultimately drop both games to fall to 3-5 overall and 1-4 in league action. The Bulldogs would drop what was a heartbreaking 25-24 contest at Army before giving Marshall one of their sternest challenges in Southern Conference play, but would eventually drop what was a 42-30 contest.

The Bulldogs would close out the ‘94 season in strong fashion, winning its final three games of the season, which included a a 17-15 win over defending league champion Georgia Southern in the regular-season finale in what was a matchup between the two top rushing teams in the league. The Bulldogs would just hold the edge in ground yards at the end of the game, out-gaining the Eagles, 256-217, in the regular-season finale. It allowed the Bulldogs to edge the Eagles in total yards on the day, 263-262.

The ‘94 Bulldogs had a pair of offensive linemen honored on the all-conference teams at season’s end, with Levi Davis (Coaches Team) garnering first-team all-league plaudits, while Derek Beres (Coaches Team) was a second-team honoree.It was the beginning of a new era in Greenville, S.C., with Bobby Johnson assuming the role as the new head coach of a proud and championship-laden football program at Furman (3-8, 2-6 SoCon).

The new Paladin head coach took over for one that will always occupy legendary status in Furman football lore, as he takes over for Jimmy Satterfield, who remains the only coach in program history to ever win a national title.

Furman’s program, which had been so dominant since the late 1970s, winning nine titles from 1978-90 before the program fell on some hard times, and eventually resulted in a coaching change when Jimmy Satterfield called it a career as a college coach, stepping down at the conclusion of a 5-5-1 campaign in 1993.

Johnson, a graduate of Clemson where he was a defensive back in the early 1970s, was known in most circles as one of the defensive coordinators in all of Division I-AA football.

Johnson took over a football program as a head coach in 1994 that was in a similar position to the one he had arrived to as the defensive backs coach in 1976 under Art Baker, which was a young, talented football program that needed a little experience and know-how before being able to reach the ultimate championship goals that are the same at the start of each season.

Two years later with Johnson still on board, the Paladins would end up lifting their first of those nine Southern Conference title trophies during his time as an assistant on the defensive side of the ball.

The ‘94 Paladins figured to be a challenging one from the outset, and while it wouldn’t produce the similar successful results that the 1976 team did when Johnson first arrived as a defensive backs coach, it would serve as a solid foundation for an eventual return to the postseason two years later in 1996.

On the surface, the ‘94 season would see the Paladins produce their worst season as a football program since 1972 and first losing season since ‘79, however, that’s just the nuts and bolts facts.

Looking beyond the record itself, the ‘94 season would initiate the development of some future stars on both sides of the football, which included sophomore quarterback Braniff Bonaventure, wide receivers Josh Cole and Jody Wade, tight end Luther Broughton, and running back Ernest Crosby.

On defense, young talents emerged that would be part of a nucleus that would eventually lead the Paladins back to a nine-win campaign and the Division I-AA playoffs in ‘96, as talents like defensive end Bryan Dailer and linebackers Orando Ruff and Bernard Scott would all cut their teeth as starters in their freshmen seasons under Johnson in ‘94.

Furman always had a solid special teams unit, and despite the struggles onboth the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, the special teams would remain the one constant in Johnson’s rookie season.

Furman had an elite placekicker, in veteran Jim Richter, while wideout Jody Wade, who would also served as a reliable option in the Paladin passing game as a wide receiver, would begin a memorable career as an accomplished punter for Furman during the ‘94 season.

While Bobby Johnson would go on to achieve lofty status as a membership various Halls of Fame, including achieving that status in both the Furman Athletics Hall of Fame and the South Carolina Football Hall of Fame, the ‘94 season would be a trying one for the future legendary head coach.

The harsh reality was that Furman wasn’t very good in any area during Johnson’s first season at the helm. The Paladins finished the ‘94 season ranking eighth out of nine teams in total offense (352.8 YPG), while ranking seventh in the nine-team SoCon team in total defense (418.2 YPG).

The Paladins would open the ‘94 season against Clemson and a familiar face, in former Chattanooga head coach Tommy West. West had coached the Tigers in their Peach Bowl win over Kentucky, but it would be his first game as head coacch infront of the crowd at Memorial Stadium.

Johnson returned to his alma mater and the place he served as the defensive coordinator in 1993 to face the Tigers, and his Paladins put up a respectable fight before eventually dropping what was a respectable 27-6 contest.

The Paladins evened their record at 1-1 following a 26-21 win over South Carolina State in the 1994 night home opener, and it would include one of the more remarkable individual performances of the ‘94 season by a defensive player in the SoCon.

Furman strong safety Andre Hentz factored into all five of the Bulldogs turnovers in the contest, recovering three fumbles and intercepting a pair of South Carolina State passes to garner Division I-AA National Defensive Player of the Week accolades in the process.

Fittingly for Johnson, who was a defensive back during his playing days at Clemson, would see a man after his own heart, in Hentz, who factored very prominently in Johnson’s first-career win as a head coach.

The Paladins would fall on hard times from that point forward. William & Mary, who came ranked sixth in Division I-AA football, handed the Paladins a 28-26 setback, which would be the first of four-straight setbacks the Paladins had to endure. To make matters worse, the Paladins lost starting signal-callerPhilly Jones to a broken wrist, ending his season prematurely.

Following setbacks to Western Carolina (L, 24-35), at Appalachian State (L, 6-30) and vs. The Citadel (L, 44-52), the Paladins would put an end to their longest losing streak in 15 years by claiming what was a 28-11 win on the road at VMI. It also ended a streak of six-straight road losses for the Paladins and marked Furman’s 13th-straight against the Keydets.

The following week would see the Paladins on the road once again, facing East Tennessee State in Johnson City. The Paladins posted an eighth-straight win in the series over the Bucs, claiming a 33-21 verdict at the Memorial Center.Mark Tate picked off a pair of Greg Ryan passes en route to leading one of Furman’s best defensive efforts of the season and would end up garnering SoCon Defensive Player of the Week honors in the process.

Unfortunately for Johnson and the Paladins, it would be the final time the Paladins would taste victory during the ‘94 season. In direct opposition to how arch-rival The Citadel ended the season with three-straight victories to close the ‘94 campaign,the Paladins would close out the season with three-straight losses, dropping games to Georgia Southern (L, 26-31), at Marshall (L, 14-35) and vs. Chattanooga (L, 20-34).

Both Chattanooga (3-8, 2-6 SoCon) and VMI (1-10, 1-7 SoCon) were a pair of football programs that had been in the doldrums for the first few years in the 1990s in the Southern Conference, and the ‘94 season marked the third-straight in which the two programs finished in the bottom two spots of the league standings.

The Mocs and Keydets had two of the top individual offensive talents in the Southern Conference, in running back Thomas Haskins of VMI and standout Mocs wide receiver and future NFL Hall-of-Fame receiver Terrell Owens.

The two programs were also under the direction of new head coaches in 1994, with Buddy Green taking over the head coaching job at Chattanooga after Tommy West had departed to take the job opening at Clemson, while the new sheriff in Lexington, VA., was Bill Stewart.

For Chattanooga Kenyon Earl, it was the conclusion of what was a Hall-of-Fame career as then referred to as the Moccasins quarterback and his stellar career would see him finish up with an impressive 6,400 passing yards. The 2017 UTC Hall-of-Fame inductee also ended his standout Mocs career with a Chattanooga standard 42 touchdown passes in his career.

As for the ‘94 season, the Mocs struggled throughout and it didn’t help that Chattanooga start off the season with its first two foes ranked at their respective classifications. First up was No. 11 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and the Mocs played well at times before eventually dropping a 42-13 contest to the Crimson Tide.

In the second week of the season, Heisman Trophy candidate Steve “Air” McNair led the Division I-AA No. 22 ranked Alcorn State Braves into town to battle UTC.

McNair would dazzle all afternoon en route to leading the Braves to the 54-28 win, as he accounted for 647 yards total offense--an NCAA Division I-AA record-- en route to leading the Braves to the lopsided win. McNair passed for a whopping 491 yards on 27 pass completions, while rushing for 156 yards and a pair of scores.

The Mocs would pick up their three wins during the campaign against Gardner-Webb (W, 47-23) the following week to close out non-conference play.Chattanooga’s two wins in Southern Conference play would come against both VMI (W, 49-14) and at Furman (W, 34-20), with the win over the Paladins to close the season helping the Mocs close the season on somewhat of a high note.

Running back Mario Grier, who transferred to UTC from Clemson following the 1993 season, played his first of two seasons with the Mocs in 1994. He would end up leading Chattanooga in rushing during that ‘94 season, rushing for 544 yards and a pair of scores.

He was also an effective receiving option out of the backfield, hauling in 28 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown. Following the 1995 season, Grier would end up being the 195th pick in the NFL Draft, playing a couple of seasons with the New England Patriots, which included playing in the 1996 Super Bowl.

VMI would struggle to find its way for much of the 1994 season, but the one redeeming moment, which will not be forgotten will be its final act from the ‘94 season, when the Keydets would spring one of the premier upsets in the history of Southern Conference football.

The Keydets, who were winless on the ‘94 campaign, headed for Boone, N.C., to face off against a playoff-bound Appalachian State team, which a lot on the line, despite having already done enough to get in the postseason. The Mountaineers played likethey weren’t worried about losing and it showed.

As for the Southern Conference’s best running back Thomas Haskins...Well, he ran wild. By the time the Keydets had polished off one of the biggest upsets in Southern Conference history, Haskins had rushed for 225 yards and three touchdowns in leading the Keydets to an unfathomable, 26-23, overtime upset of the Mountaineers.

It would be the lone win of the season for the Keydets, but it was well worth the wait after having had to endure so many lopsided and painful defeats. Perhaps even more unbelievable was the fact that the Mountaineers could have shared the Southern Conference title with Marshall if they could have found a way past the Keydets.

1994 Notes and Superlatives

  • The game that most certainly ended up defining the 1994 campaign was the one between Appalachian State and Marshall, who were two gridiron programs that really started to emerge as not only SoCon title contenders, but also national title contenders, which had started about a decade earlier in the mid-late 1980s.Appalachian State hosted the Thundering Herd in a rare night game at Kidd Brewer Stadium, and it was Johnny Smith that provided the “Black Magic” for the Mountaineer defense, using a 70-yard INT return for a touchdown to help the Mountaineers take a 24-7 fourth quarter lead with just over eight minutes left, and the Black and Gold defense would make that lead stand up en route to a 24-14 win.
  • Thomas Haskins finished the 1994 season as the league’s leading rusher, which included two of his three 200-yard performances in the final two games of the regular-season. The sophomore running back finished the campaign with 1,508 yards and 11 TDs on 258 rush attempts, averaging an impressive 5.8 YPC. Haskins’ three 200-yard rushing efforts came against The Citadel (251 yds), Appalachian State (225 yds) and Richmond (251 yds). Other 200-yard rushing performances during the ‘94 season came from Appalachian State’s Aldwin Lance (205 yds vs. Liberty) and The Citadel’s Terrence Rivers (217 yds vs. Furman).
  • Both Southern Conference programs fell in the playoffs to NCAA Division I-AA runner-up Boise State, with the Broncos downing Appalachian State, 17-14, and Marshall, 28-24.
  • One of the more interesting non-conference games of the 1994 campaign took place between Furman and William & Mary, who will face off once again this fall. The top 10 ranked Tribe came in and handed the Paladins a 28-26 setback in what was a thrilling contest at Paladin Stadium. Furman and William & Mary will of course face each other this fall at Zable Stadium in Williamsburg, with the Tribe expected to be similarly perched towards the top of the CAA. Led by quarterback Shawn Knight, the Tribe would roll up 464 yards of total offense in garnering a hard-fought 28-26 win. Despite losing quarterback Philly Jones to a season-ending wrist injury, the Paladins would see backup Braniff Bonaventure come in and help Furman amass 467 yards of total offense, utilizing a balanced attack, with 225 yards on the ground and 242 yards through the air.
  • The SoCon was stacked NFL talent on both sides of the football. On defense, the league had two of the best emerging talents in the SoCon and Division I-AA football, in Furman freshman linebacker Orlando Ruff and Appalachian State sophomore linebacker Dexter Coakley. Both would go on to NFL careers, with Coakley spending 10 seasons as a Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams standout before retiring. He would be a two-time NFL All-Pro honoree, and has his No. 32 jersey retired in Boone. He was a 2011 inductee into the College Football Hall-of-Fame and is also a member of the App State and South Carolina Athletic Halls of Fame. He was a three-time SoCon Defensive Player of the Year and two-time Buck Buchanan Award winner. Meanwhile, at defensive back, players like ETSU’s Donnie Abraham was beginning to hit his stride as a cornerback with the Bucs. Like Coakley, he would be an NFL All-Pro honoree, spending nine years in the league with both the New York Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Appalachian State safety Matt Stevens was a junior at Appalachian State, and the Mountaineer All-American defensive back was a third round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills. He spent eight seasons in the NFL, playing for the Bills (1996), Philadephia Eagles (1997-98), Washington Redskins (1998-2000), New England Patriots (2000-01) and Houston Texans (2002-03). Marshall’s dominant defensive tackle Billy Lyon (1993-96) was a two-time All-American and three-time All-SoCon selection, and he spent six years in the NFL with the Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, and Minnesota Vikings. The league had future NFL wideouts, in UTC’s Terrell Owens, as well as David Patten of Western Carolina. Owens would have an NFL Hall-of-Fame career, while Patten, who was a junior at WCU, went on to win a Super Bowl with the New England Patriots in 2002. Running back Travis Jervey of The Citadel was a junior running back with the Bulldogs. He would go on to be selected in the 1995 NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers and spent eight years as a pro, which included playing for the Packers (1995-98), San Francisco 49ers (1999-2000) and Atlanta Falcons (2001-03). Chattanooga’s Marrio Grier, who played for the Mocs in 1994 and ‘95 after transferring in from Clemson, spent two seasons in the NFL with the New England Patriots in 1996 and ‘97. Marshall Hall-of-Fame running back Chris Parker was a junior running back with Thundering Herd in 1994 and finished his career with 5,924 rushing yards, which was the most in league history when he moved on in 1995. He spent one year in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Furman tight end Luther Broughton (1993-96) was an all-league pick as a fand was a three-time all-league pick and a two-time Sports Network All-America selection. He spent seven seasons in the NFL after being selected in the fifth round of the 1997 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. He enjoyed two different stints in the City of Brotherly Love (1997; 1999-2000), as well as spending time with the Carolina Panthers (1997-99; 2001) Chicago Bears (2002) and Green Bay Packers.

1994 Coaches All-SoCon Teams

First Team Offense

TE — Luther Broughton (Furman)

WR — Jeff Johnson (ETSU)

WR — Craig Aiken (Western Carolina)

OT — William Pannell (Marshall)

OT — Brad Ohrt (Appalachian State)

OG — Levi Davis (The Citadel)

C — Franklin Stephens (Georgia Southern)

QB — Todd Donnan (Marshall)

RB — Chris Parker (Marshall)

RB — Thomas Haskins (VMI)

PK — Jim Richter (Furman)

KR — Kerry Hayes (Western Carolina)

Second Team Offense

TE — Danny White (Marshall)

WR — Terrell Owens (Chattanooga)

WR — Tim Martin (Marshall)

OT — Brian Fisher (Furman)

OG — Aaron Ferguson (Marshall)

OG — Scott Stinson (Western Carolina)

C — J.D. Cyrus (Marshall)

QB — Chad Greene (Western Carolina)

RB — Chip Hooks (App State)

RB — Travis Jervey (The Citadel)

PK—Tim Openlander (Marshall)

KR—Timmy Williams (VMI)

First Team Defense

DL—William Peebles (Appalachian State)
DL—James Russell (East Tennessee State)

DL—Billy Lyon (Marshall)

DL—Billy Bumper (Western Carolina)

LB—Dexter Coakley (Appalachian State)

LB—Paul Carroll (Georgia Southern)

LB—Brian Stump (Marshall)

DB—Matt Stevens (Appalachian State)

DB—Roger Johnson (Marshall)

DB—Shannon Morrison (Marshall)

DB—John Jenkins (Western Carolina)

P—Travis Colquitt (Marshall)

Second Team Defense

DL—Michael Morris (Georgia Southern)

DL—B.J. Cohen (Marshall)

DL—Derek Summerour (Western Carolina)

DL—Chip Miller (Appalachian State)

LB—Tom Bodine (Western Carolina)

LB—Vince Parker (Marshall)

LB—Scott Davis (Georgia Southern)

DB—Mark Tate (Furman)

DB—Donnie Abraham (ETSU)

DB—Marco Bradham (Georgia Southern)

DB—Johnny Smith (Appalachian State)

SoCon Offensive Player of the Year: QB—Todd Donnan (Marshall)

SoCon Defensive Player of the Year: LB—Dexter Coakley (Appalachian State)

SoCon Freshman of the Year: QB—Kenny Robinson (Georgia Southern)

SoCon Coach of the Year: Jerry Moore (Appalachian State)

Final SoCon Standings

1. Marshall 12-2, 7-1 SoCon

2. Appalachian State 9-4, 6-2 SoCon

3. Georgia Southern 6-5, 5-3 SoCon

4. Western Carolina 6-5, 5-3 SoCon

5. The Citadel 6-5, 4-4 SoCon

6. East Tennessee State 6-5, 4-4 SoCon

7. Furman 3-8, 2-6 SoCon

8. Chattanooga 3-8, 2-6 SoCon

9. VMI 1-10, 1-7 SoCon

Playoff Scores

1st Round

Appalachian State 17, New Hampshire 10 (OT/Cowell Stadium/Durham, N.H.)

Marshall 49, Middle Tennessee State 14 (Marshall Stadium/Huntington, WVa)

Quarterfinals

Marshall 28, James Madison 21 (OT/Marshall Stadium/Huntington, WVa)
Boise State 17, Appalachian State 14 (Bronco Stadium/Boise, ID)

Semifinals

Boise State 28, Marshall 24 (Bronco Stadium/Boise, ID)